In just two days, the Indianapolis Colts will kick off their 2014 season on the road in their first preseason game against the New York Jets. For 27 players on the Colts 90-man roster right now, Thursday night's game will be their first NFL game period.
Naturally, you'd expect nerves and anxiousness from those rookies, most of whom will not only be playing in their first NFL game but will also be playing for a job and a roster spot. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, speaking with the media Tuesday morning, gave some insight as to what he tells those rookies:
"This is your first opportunity to put your brand, your product on tape. The biggest thing is effort. Flying around, playing fast, playing tough, playing smart. Have fun, relax and go play. Know exactly what you're supposed to do. We'll put them in situations as best we can so they can have success early on, so they're not thinking. Play hard. Play fast. Execute. Take care of the little things. But really effort, you're looking for great effort. It shouldn't be something that when we come back on Friday and we grade this tape that we've got to talk to guys about effort."
Pagano's message is simple and effective. It's still football, after all, and they just need to go play. What Pagano is looking for the most is guys giving their all and putting forth their best possible effort. It's a simple, yet much needed, message to the rookies.
There are a lot of eyes on the rookies like Jack Mewhort, Donte Moncrief, and Jonathan Newsome, but also undrafted guys will be in the spotlight too. It'll be very interesting to watch them and see how they do. But we know that while Pagano will certainly be watching those things too, what he's looking for most of all is effort. A lot of times, that tells you all you need to know.
Here's what a few of the Colts team leaders are telling the rookies:
Andrew Luck, quarterback:
"That's a good question. I guess I'll tell them to have fun. I think all the vets will do a good job in their sort of room or position group of making sure the young guys are ready. You realize it's a special thing to be able to put a horseshoe on your helmet and represent your family, the team, the City of Indianapolis. But, yeah, just to go out and have fun and play hard. That's one thing Coach (Chuck) Pagano talked about is you know guys are going to make mistakes and things are going to happen, but what we should not worry about is effort, and hustle, and desire. And I don't see that being an issue at all. And it's fun, again, it's a special thing to be in your first NFL game, preseason or not."
Arthur Jones, defensive lineman:
"I'm telling them to have fun, stay loose and live in the moment. Don't see too much. Sometimes when you're a young player, we've all been there, your eyes get big as quarters, silver dollars and you get nervous in these games. Just be yourself, do what got you here and really hone in on the small things and just keep getting better."
Cory Redding, defensive lineman:
"The message is clear, man. I don't care if you mess up. Just mess up going 100 miles per hour. Period. Because we can clean up anything else. The coaches will clean that up. I will help you clean that stuff up but just don't go out there and just slap around and not know what you're supposed to do because that makes it worse. I mean, I can't help you there. They can get anybody off the street for effort. So as long as you mess up, I don't care if you mess up. Mess up at 1,000 miles an hour. Everything else will fix itself out. Don't worry about numbers, don't worry about nothing. Just go out there when your number is called and let it loose. Have fun, go hit somebody else other than a Colt issued helmet player, go hit somebody else please. I'm tired of hitting Hugh Thornton, I'm tired of hitting all our linemen. I want to hit somebody else."